The Difference Between Assisted Living & Nursing Homes
Assisted living communities and nursing homes are two options for seniors who need supportive services or are unable to live independently any longer. While the primary function of both is to keep residents healthy, safe, and happy, they differ in the services they provide to best meet the needs of each individual.
Assisted living communities provide support for the Activities of Daily Living (ADL). These include help with bathing, dressing, medication management, meal preparation, housekeeping, and laundry for individuals who for the most part are independent, mobile, and basically healthy, but need some assistance with their daily routines.
Services and amenities include well-balanced daily meals and snacks, housekeeping services, personal laundry, transportation for shopping and medical appointments, and a variety of activities on-site, including art, crafts, games, music, exercise, movies, lectures, and much more. Activities off-site include outings for fall foliage rides, summer band concerts, fishing, county fairs, and similar events.
Depending on the facility, living options include private or semi-private rooms with their own bathrooms or a studio apartment or suite with its own kitchenette and bathroom. Common living and dining areas are social gathering places bringing residents together for meals, activities, and family visits. Residents are encouraged to bring their own furniture and the overall feel of a senior living community is a home-like setting.
Nursing homes also provide support for all of the Activities of Daily Living. However, residents generally require round-the-clock care because of their more complex health conditions that necessitate skilled nursing care and rehabilitative services, like physical, speech and occupational therapies.
Individuals may live in a nursing home permanently, or be there for a shorter stay for rehabilitation while recuperating from heart attacks, strokes, back injuries, and surgery such as hip and knee replacements.
Nursing homes usually look more institutional than assisted living communities due to the nature of the care they provide. Residents may have a private room and bathroom, but more often share a room and a bathroom with another person.
Common rooms are places where residents can gather for dining and enrichment activities that include exercise programs for strength, flexibility, and mobility, and arts, crafts, games, and music for mental stimulation.
Assisted Living or Nursing Home?
Assisted living communities and nursing homes offer some of the same essential living services (ADLs), but the option a person chooses will depend on the level of care that fits their situation, which is determined by their overall health and mobility and how much help they need with their daily activities.
Important questions to ask when comparing facilities include: is the facility licensed by the state; the ratio of residents to staff; the staff turnover rate; the number and kind of medical professionals on staff and their availability; how is a medical emergency handled; who administers medications; are facility inspection and audit reports available; costs and types of insurances accepted.
Additionally, it may be important that the facility chosen is close to family and friends so that visiting is easy. When possible, the person and family members should visit several times and at different times of day to get a real feel for the place. Recommendations from friends, neighbors, and medical professionals can be useful as they may provide options that haven’t been considered.
The decision to transition from independent living to an assisted care community or nursing home is complicated and requires thoughtfulness and acknowledgment of the individual’s current health challenges and needs. After taking all elements into consideration, don’t ignore the happy factor — the place where the person feels the most comfortable, safe and well-cared for.
Shannon Lynch is the Executive Director of The Morrison Communities, which includes the Morrison Skilled Nursing Facility, Sartwell Place Assisted Living, Morrison Rehabilitation, and Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care.
The Morrison Communities is a non-profit 501©(3) charitable community that has been providing quality healthcare to residents of New Hampshire’s North Country since 1903. For more information, go to www.themorrisoncommunities.org.